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Re-Drafting the Pittsburgh Steelers: The class of 2008

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We go back in time to re-draft what most consider one of the worst draft classes of the Mike Tomlin era - the class of 2008. See who the team drafts in hindsight.

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Last week, I debuted my fantasy 2004 Steeler re-draft piece where I displayed my 20/20 hindsight, as I became that guy at the party everybody tries to avoid. You know him, the "you know what you should've done-guy".

This week, I return as I once again "get fictional" and appoint myself to the Steeler's GM position and point out the better road that the Steelers should have traveled originally on draft day.

Once again, re-drafting any pick would force the NFL into an unrecognizable alternative-reality. Some people commented that they are happy with the team regardless of better options, some posters pointed out that if other teams could redraft, the Steelers would never get the players that I selected and some pointed out other players that I should have re-drafted. All those comments are valid.

Just like in the 1985 classic Back To The Future, changing just one detail can hurdle the world into an alternate, unfavorable world. But since this is for fun and debate's-sake, let's just explore the possibilities.

Once again, players are only considered if they were selected within 15 picks of the Steelers original draft choices in rounds one through five. Anyone drafted or undrafted in rounds six or seven are considered fair game and not held to the 15 spot buffer zone rule. I also reserve the right to trade picks since I'm the only person with keys to a time-traveling Delorean.

Last week, I asked Biff to buff the Delorean before I returned it to Doc Brown and he has agreed to let me take it for another spin. This time, I borrow Einstein the dog for company and away we go to the year that Barack Obama was historically elected to the White House, Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps get greedy for gold at the Olympics, vampires become chic with the theatrical debut of "Twilight" and Katy Perry kissed a girl.

Aloha 2008!

Round 1 (23)

Original Pick: RB Rashard Mendenhall - Illinois

Re-draft Pick: Traded to St. Louis

Analysis: Memories of this guy are met with vitriol, however Rashard Mendenhall was a solid rusher for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Most people abhor this guy for a fumble in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl XLV loss, ill-tweeted comments regarding 9/11 made him seem pro-Osama bin Laden and a loss of production/bailing on the team after a benching due to the aforementioned production loss.

I'm on board with the last two. But the fumble in the Super Bowl was the result of a vicious helmet-on-ball hit. Mendenhall rarely dropped the ball. It did kill momentum in that game, but that was a team loss and fingers could be pointed many-a-direction. So, he gets a pass there.

The 9/11 conspiracy comments and perceived sympathy for a villain that perpetrated the attack should have never been tweeted. His criticism of America's celebration over Osama bin Laden's death led to Champion dropping him from his endorsement deal and left a lot of fan's angry. Mendenhall claimed to merely have been trying to "generate conversation".

Sulking and deserting after a 2011 benching at home against San Diego put the nail in his coffin. After a knee injury in late 2011, Mendenhall was not the same player. His vertical approach transformed into a dancing style, more appropriate to be judged by Bruno on Dancing With the Stars. But deserting your team, gets you a first class ticket home.

Despite good numbers when healthy, this guy wasn't a team player. I don't consider him a bust, but he wasn't the right guy for Steeler Nation.

After five seasons in a Steeler uniform and 3549 yards gained. Mendenhall took his 31 touchdowns and left for a free agent deal in Arizona.

After one season in the Valley of the Sun, The 26-year old Mendenhall quit football entirely. He retired by saying, "Football was pretty cool, but I don't want to play anymore. I want to travel the world and write".

Drafted right behind him was Chris Johnson. Johnson's production for Tennessee was phenomenal. But I have an ace up my sleeve to address the running back two rounds later, so I'm going to trade out of the first round and still address the 2008 Steeler needs handily with more picks at my disposal.

Fictionally, I approached the St. Louis Rams and they agreed to swap second rounders and send a third in '08 and a third in '09 for the Steelers first rounder in 2008. This will prove beneficial for both squads and, voila, the Mendenhall era never occurs.

Other good fits in the initial round included Duane Brown, Mike Jenkins and Antoine Cason. But the trade down seemed the best way to go.

Round 2 (36)

Original Pick: St. Louis selects WR Donnie Avery - Houston

Re-draft Pick: WR Jordy Nelson-Kansas State

Analysis: The big fish that the trade nets is WR Jordy Nelson.

The Steelers attempted to go big originally with their second overall pick and had to wait till 2014 to finally find their big kahuna in the form of Martavis Bryant. Adding the 6'3" Nelson would give the team a top-flight, big guy six years earlier.

The Kansas State product caught 400 pigskins for 6,107 yards in seven campaigns. Jordy was named All-Pro in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

It would have been nice to flip his touchdown receptions in Super Bowl XLV over to the Steelers' column, if the space-time continuum doesn't dissolve that matchup.

Scouts were intrigued by the former college safety's good hands, deceptive deep speed, able route-running and toughness. Adding Nelson to Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington would have provided another great option for Big Ben. That corp of receivers would have been prolific.

Round 2 (53)

Original Pick: WR LImas Sweed - Texas

Re-draft Pick: Traded to St. Louis

Analysis: Draft guru Todd McShay had stated that in ten years, this second round selection would go down as the best receiver in this draft. But this pick made Steel City fans channel their inner-Robert Loggia from 1991's Unnecessary Roughness, "DON'T THROW IT TO STONE HANDS!".

Twenty games, seven receptions, zero touchdowns and numerous drops in crucial situations. That sums up Athens NFL career of Limas Sweed.

Picks, like the drafting of Sweed, are the epitome of what this series of articles is all about. This guy couldn't catch a cold sore in a brothel. At 6"4' and 220 lbs., he was the kind of specimen that quarterbacks dream about. But that dream turned into night terrors when Sweed dropped a long ball against the Chargers in the Divisional Playoffs and a crucial 50-yard bomb at the end-of-the-half in the AFC Championship against the Ravens. Limas was more open than a convenience store on Christmas. But that wasn't the worst part. The tall Texan faked an injury by remaining on the turf, costing the team their valuable, final timeout the end of the half and a chance at points via a field goal.

Sweed did make a third down grab and throw a nice block in that title game win, but the bad heavily outweighed the mere decent.

Including missing a year due to a training camp knee injury, Sweed's departure from Pittsburgh and the league came in 2011. Since then #14's rough ride took him to the CFL, where he is currently a free agent.

Round 3 (65)

Original Pick: St. Louis selects T John Greco-Toledo

Re-draft Pick: RB Jamaal Charles-Texas

Analysis: Here's where that sleeved-ace I referred to earlier comes into play.

Jamaal Charles is a versatile back that would have apprenticed a year behind Fast Willie Parker, then a seamless transition to superstar would have followed quickly.

In seven seasons as a Kansas City Chief, Charles was in charge. The Texas Longhorn rushed for 6,856 and has proven to be a reliable receiving threat, catching 262 balls for 2,266 yards. He has reached the end zone a combined 67 times. The twice-named All-Pro would have been to five straight Pro Bowls, but a season-ending injury in 2011 kept that from becoming a reality. Charles, currently, is still one of the most productive rushers in the business.

Round 3 (88)

Original Selection: LB/DE Bruce Davis - UCLA

Re-draft Selection: LB/DE Cliff Avril - Purdue

Analysis: Davis, the brash-talking Bruin, played five contests in the Burgh with nary a tackle. Davis was cut a year later. He bounced around camps and practice squads for New England, Denver, San Francisco and Cincinnati. But gained most of his glory in Oakland with five career tackles in 2010 and 2011.

The 6'3"/250 lb. Davis took his talents north to Canada, but is not currently on a roster.

As had worked so many times before, the Steelers envisioned the college defensive end as a Joey Porter-type convert to linebacker and pass rushing demon. But the legacy could not adjust to the pro level.

Picked four spots later was Cliff Avril, everything they wanted in Davis and much more. Drafted as a defensive end by Detroit, Avril is now an outside linebacker in Seattle. Quick for 252 lbs, the 6'3" Avril adds a pass rushing presence the team was looking for with James Harrison aging.

Round 4 (130)

Original Pick: T Tony Hills - Texas

Re-draft Pick: CB Brandon Carr - Grand Valley State

Analysis: Originally in the fourth round, the Steelers owned the 123rd pick, but they slid down seven spots and shipped it to the Giants for an extra sixth round pick that netted Ryan Mundy. Going into this draft, the Steelers wished to add extra depth on the offensive line and defensive backfield later on. They thought they had accomplished it here. But the pick of Tony Hills didn't fulfill the first half of that wish.

Hills didn't catch on in Pittsburgh, lasting only until 2010. Colt McCoy's protector as a Longhorn was brought in to protect the quarterback, but never could break through.

After not making the 53-man roster out of Latrobe in 2011, Hills was released and ended up on a league tour. His stops included Denver, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Oakland, Miami and now, Dallas. In 7 years, Hills started once in 14 games.

Josh Sitton was a great option here to solidify the line and cancel out the Hills miss, but that gets addressed in the next round. Zackary Bowman and Orlando Scandrick were also defensive backs considered, Brandon Carr at cornerback seems the best fit here.

In seven seasons between Kansas City and Dallas, the 6' Carr has been productive to the tune of fourteen interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. He also has started 16 games a season, every year in the league.

Before the draft, Carr was said to be a hard-hitting tackler with excellent range and closing speed and could over opposing team's best receiver. Brandon has lived-up to that on the pro-level.

With Deshea Townsend's career winding down, Carr would have been a great option to pass the torch to.

Round 5 (156)

Original Selection: QB Dennis Dixon - Oregon

Re-draft Selection: OT Carl Nicks - Nebraska

Analysis: I'd like to send the Delorean back a little farther to 2007 and protect Dennis Dixon's knee. The Duck quarterback looked like a Heisman winner and a possible National Champion when he went down with a devastating knee injury. Had that not happened, Dixon would have been a first-round selection for sure.

But fate had different plans for Dennis and he dropped down to the fifth round. However, he found himself with his first of two Super Bowl rings as a rookie. (The other was as a Raven practice-squad player in 2012.)

Dixon, who scouts said needed to prove himself as a passer while scrambling more than just a runner, had all of the tools to play on Sundays. But despite four years in the Burgh, his injured knee never helped him regain the glory that he achieved in college. Dixon started 3 times in his career, but never threw for more than a touchdown in seven seasons.

After departing the Steel City, Dixon bounced from town-to-town, making stops in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Arizona. Today, he remains unsigned

Nicks, at a mammoth 6'5" and 345 lbs., would have been a tough rock to move on an offensive line that was constantly re-tooling in the latter part of the decade. Drafted out of Nebraska, Nicks was a first-team All-Pro and was twice selected to the Pro-Bowl.

The scouting report on Nicks lauded his surprising quickness for a man of his size.

Nicks, with a ring to his credit in New Orleans, started 70 of 73 games for the Saints and in Tampa, before health issues started to limit him in 2013, hastening his retirement.

I liked LB/DE Erik Walden here also. But that position was filled with the Avril redraft earlier and Nicks could have helped re-solidify a patch-work line, a whole lot earlier.

Round 6 (188)

Original Selection: LB Mike Humpal - Iowa

Re-draft Selection: QB Matt Flynn - LSU

Analysis: Scouts raved about Mike Humpal's instinct, work-ethic, coachability and craftiness. But the second-team Big 10er from Iowa never made the field. A high school wrestling champion as a junior, Humpal was selected to be competition and at least, a Clint Kriewaldt-type special teams ace, but a neck injury derailed those plans. After a season on IR, the team reached an injury settlement with Humpal and the 6'3"/242 pounder never hooked on with another team.

One round later, the Steelers acquire their backup quarterback of the future. As Aaron Rodger's understudy most of his career, Flynn has started only seven gamed. However, In a January 2012 game agains Detroit, the LSU signal caller threw for 480 yards and 6 scoring strikes.

The big game against the Lions led to a huge contract from Seattle in 2012, but he lost out to Russell Wilson in camp. Flynn bounced around Oakland and Buffalo, before returning in 2013 to step in for an ailing Rodgers and help them back to the postseason.

With Roethlisberger's history of getting hit, Flynn would have been a more reliable next-guy-in and could have made a difference in the 8-8 years, when one more win would have meant a berth to the tourney.

Round 6 (194)

Original Selection: S Ryan Mundy - West Virginia

Re-draft Selection: S Ryan Mundy - West Virginia

Analysis: For a team looking for depth at the defensive back position, Mundy was definitely serviceable for a late round grab. In fact, he proved to be a viable special teamer and backup at safety from 2009 to 2012. For this, Mundy is the only player selected in 2008 to be retained in this exercise.

Originally, The Woodland Hills kid was cut in training camp and then spent the year on the practace squad before sticking on the 53-man roster.

Praised by scouts for explosive closing speed in short areas, Mundy's play in Pittsburgh led to deals in 2013 and 2014 with the Giants and Bears respectively.

The 2008 re-draft is now complete. Let the lively discussion commence. As for me, I gotta get to planning the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance.

Until next week, Keep your feet on the ground and Re-elect Mayor Goldie Wilson.

Other re-drafts:
Re-drafting the class of 2004